A Dog’s Coat Patterns Hold Clues to Their Wolf Ancestors

Discovering ancient origins in DNA

New research sheds light on a subset of dog coat patterns. The findings raise new questions about long-held tenets of dog evolution.

The study findings reveal structural variants that control expression of the agouti signaling protein, or ASIP, gene at two separate locations to produce five distinctive dog color patterns. These different patterns are widespread, occurring in hundreds of dog breeds and hundreds of millions of dogs around the world.

The question of when these changes arose surprised the researchers.

They discovered that the genetic combination for one of the coat patterns—dominant yellow, or DY—is shared with arctic white wolves and, based on phylogenetic analysis, originated from an extinct canid that diverged from gray wolves more than 2 million years ago.

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